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Dark Blue

Skeptics: 1, Kurt Russell: 0

After work the other night, well, after he was done working, a friend and I were discussing Kurt Russell over several beers. Although there never needs to be a reason to discuss Mr. Russell, this time it happened to be the evening before I was to view the new film Dark Blue, in which he stars as a fiery, hard-drinking cop named Eldon Perry.

"You know," mused my drinking associate, upon hearing that I was to see the film the next day, "my girlfriend and I were talking about this the other night. We saw the preview to Dark Blue... Has Kurt Russell ever made a good movie?"

I choked on my throatfull of Full Sail and then spit it out all over him. Shocked, he raised his hands in the air. "What?" he challenged, standing firm by his earlier claim. "I'm serious. Every movie he makes just sucks."

As a man, I had no choice. I took off my shoe and beat him to death. Each time my non-marking vulcanized rubber outsole struck his rapidly softening melon, I growled through clenched teeth the name of a different Kurt Russell character that deserved respect.

"Wyatt Earp."
"Captain Ron."
"Snake Plisskin."
"Gabe Cash."

Gabe Cash, for Christ's sake. Sure, Ray Tango had the well-oiled pipes, but Cash had the guts.

' Back to the matter at hand. Dark Blue is the latest directorial effort by Ron Shelton, the man who brought us White Men Can't Jump, Bull Durham, and Play it to the Bone. It is based on a novel by James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential and other mysteries centered around Los Angeles. Well, I've seen L.A. Confidential, and this is no L.A. Confidential.

The basic premise to the story is as follows: It is the early Nineties. Eldon Perry (Russell) is a tough cop. His partner Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) is a green kid with eerily similar hair. They're in trouble for killing some perps that didn't have to be killed. The corrupt LAPD system allows the killing to go unchecked and ultimately praised. These guys have some demons.

As rampant corruption in the force plays itself out against the setting of the Rodney King trials, there is one man who will not stand for it any longer. This is Assistant Chief Holland, a Good Cop, and he's a black man in a white man's corrupt system. Also, he's very religious. A Reverend, even. If you think my description of Holland was awkward and poorly transitioned, believe me, it's only fair that I accurately represent that which I have seen.

This role calls for one man and one man alone. Here's a hint: His resume includes characters such as Marsallus Wallace, Don King, and Vanessa Williams' platonic friend Ving in a series of Radio Shack Commercials. That's right, Ving Rhames, and he's not without his own demons as well. In this case it's infidelity, which admittedly is not as bad as planting evidence, but a demon's a demon in a bad cop flick.

Anyway, all sorts of issues coming to a head here. A real moral quagmire.

The movie barrels on. Please don't make me remember any more of the plot. I'm sure you've got it by now. Internal power struggle, moral decisions, scotch straight from the bottle.

Dark Blue is a very bad movie. Maybe even awful, but I'm not going to label it as such.

The crazy thing is, the acting is actually pretty damn good. Russell is great, and so is his young partner. So it's not the acting that stinks, as is often the case. Here, however, the worst parts are the direction and the writing. We see everything coming from a mile away, every plot twist and sabotage, and some of the lines the actors are given are just god-awful.

But by far the biggest tragedy associated with the film is that it manages to turn an actual event, a very important event - the Rodney King beating trial, verdict, and subsequent riots - into a melodramatic, sententious two-plus hours of fiction.

If you're really in the mood for a Kurt Russell flick, do yourself a favor and just rent Tango and Cash or John Carpenter's The Thing.


Dark Blue
Rated R
1 hour 56 minutes

Kurt Russell
Ving Rhames
Scott Speedman
Brendan Gleeson
Michael Michele